Being A Mentor

Do's and Don'ts of the Mentor

  • Be fully committed to the mentoring process and your mentee.  Have genuine interest in your mentee.
  • Be clear about your expectations, needs, and limits of the relationship.
  • Create an open and comfortable environment. 
  • Be sensitive to differences in race, gender and cultural background.
  • Be yourself, offer your own lessons learned, struggles, and successes.  Be straightforward about you own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Recognize the power of feedback.  Ask first, then provide your mentee with suggestions and constructive feedback in the spirit of development and caring.
  • Practice Active Listening (link)
  • Guide mentees toward reflection and self-learning by asking questions and not leading them to a quick, right answer.
  • Encourage your mentee to move toward his or her goals, not yours.
  • Follow up on commitments you have made to your mentee.
  • Make only positive or neutral comments about your mentee to others.
  • Encourage your mentee to join committees and professional organizations helpful for career development.


  • Automatically give advice or criticism.
  • Assume your advice will always be followed.
  • Break the confidence/trust of your mentee.
  • Be inconsistent, unpredictable, or condescending.
  • Overpromise what you can do.
  • Expect a “mini-me” to emerge.
  • Lose touch with your mentee after the formalized relationship has ended.
  • Be surprised when you learn something from the mentoring relationship.
Mentor Roles

A mentor can assume many different roles. The roles you assume as a mentor depends on the needs of your mentee and the relationship you have established. Six common roles are described below:

  • Guide:  A guide takes you through a journey, providing different pathways and warning of potential pitfalls. A mentor can offer wise perspective and can encourage growth by asking the right questions, throwing out ideas, and keeping conversation and creativity moving. This advisory role also requires the mentor to help the mentee develop professional interests and set realistic career goals.
  • Coach:  A coach provides motivation and feedback. Positive feedback to reinforce behavior and constructive feedback to change behavior. Both types are critical to the professional growth of the mentee. Positive feedback is a great motivating tool for removing doubt and building self-esteem which results in a sense of accomplishment.
  • Advisor:  A mentor works with the mentee to develop a career development plan that outlies what knowledge, skills and abilities are needed to reach career goals.
  • Counselor:   The counselor role establishes a lasting and open relationship. Respect and confidentiality are baselines for this relationship. A mentor encourages the mentee identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Advocate:  An advocate champions the ideas and interests of the mentee. Advocates act as a sponsor, creating opportunities that challenge and instruct the mentee, setting them up for success. The goal is to provide as much exposure and visibility for the mentee, with a minimum of risk. This role primarily involves initiating opportunities for development by helping establish a network of contacts, helpful resources and a path to success.
  • Role Model:  Teaching by example is a mentor’s most effective developmental tool.     
Characteristics of an Effective Mentor
  • Supportive of the needs and aspirations of the mentee.
  • Willing to spend time performing mentoring responsibilities. 
  • Respected in the community and profession.
  • Communicates openly and clearly.
  • Comfortable providing constructive feedback.
  • Has a genuine interest in helping others succeed.
  • A respectful, inspiring and positive attitude

Complete the “Do I have what it takes?” assessment to further explore your mentoring potential and readiness.

Responsibilities of the Mentor
  • Assist your mentee in identifying professional and personal growth goals and objectives.
  • Assist your mentee in establishing explicit goals and objectives for the relationship.
  • Assist your mentee in developing and maintaining the Mentoring Agreement.
  • Commit to meeting with mentee on a regular basis. Establish how and when those meetings will take place. 
  • Complete progress reports and regularly re-assess needs.
  • Review agreements reached in the Mentoring Agreement at regular intervals of the partnership.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of the relationship.